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Both books I’m going to review share many similarities. They are set in Kabul, Afghanistan under the brutal rule of the Taliban. Yet the first is poetic and dark, told from the POV of locals caught up in events they neither understand nor have any control over. The second is told from the POV of a strong American woman living and working in Kabul, where every day could end in death.
I love this book. It is written with relentless poetic passion right from the first sentence:
"In the middle of nowhere, a whirlwind spins like a sorceress flinging out her skirts in a macabre dance; yet not even this hysteria serves to blow the dust off the calcified palm trees thrust against the sky like beseeching arms."
Set in Kabul under the brutal rule of the Taliban, this is an extraordinary novel. It takes readers into the lives of two couples. Mohsen comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers whom the Taliban have destroyed; Zunaira, his beautiful wife, once a brilliant teacher, is now no longer allowed to leave her home without her mahram (male relative) or without donning the full chadari (burqa) which she refuses to do until events dictate she must. Then there is Atiq, a prison keeper who has secretly adopted the Taliban ideology and struggles to align these beliefs with his faith. His wife Musarrat is now dying of sickness and despair.
I know it's not regular post time but I couldn't let the occasion go without at least a small post to let everyone know. Reading at Dawn is a year old. Our first blog post was back on January 14th, 2011. So this message is a little late but that's okay. Happy blogiversary/b-day Reading at Dawn!
Thank you Denise (L'Aussie) and JJ (WritersBlockNZ) for all of your work with this blog. I appreciate you both and I wouldn't have made it to our first milestone without you.
Saturday, January 21, 2012 | | 4 Comments
This is a book that I started reading back in September... okay, by that I mean the second time reading the book was started in September 2011. I actually read the book originally back when I was in junior high. I decided to read it again because there were certain parts that I remembered and I wanted to get a peak at some middle grade books. It's interesting what I did remember and what I had forgotten.
About the Book: (from goodreads) "Ellen awakens one morning with a mysterious silver crown on the pillow beside her. What magic powers it possesses she has not yet discovered, but the sudden changes in her life are unmistakable: her house is burned down, her family has disappeared, and a man in a dark uniform is stalking her. Can Ellen ever find her family? Can she use the power of the silver crown to thwart the powers of darkness? What diabolical force hides inside the mysterious castle in the woods?"
About the Author: Robert Leslie Conly (also known by his pen name, Robert C. O'Brien) was an American author and a journalist for National Geographic Magazine. He is known for books including Z for Zachariah and the amazing tale of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
Overall Impression: This is an older book but still rather good. There were parts that I remembered from when I first read it back in junior high-ish, since I can't remember exactly when I read it. I remembered perfectly the very beginning of the story, how she discovers the crown and the little pretend court she holds away from her house. I remembered the boy that the main character meets in the story who then travels with her and the mind control that they discover. But I didn't remember the cop killing that happens in the beginning and many other elements. Still enjoyed reading the story.
Second Reads: Like with reading any book a second time (and you'll get more about this when I review the first two books from The Wheel of Time series) there are interesting elements to reading a familiar story. Even in middle grade, there are things that I noticed now that I may not have caught onto the first time reading. But one of the things that makes a really good book is the ability to read more than once and still enjoy the story. Even though I've read the book before, I am older and all of that, there were still parts where I reacted and parts where I wanted to know what happened next. And that is a good sign.
Reading as a Writer: The main thing I felt that was different this time around wasn't so much my age, but now that I am writing and doing editing/acquisition for a small publisher, I look at books I read differently. I can't help but notice things, like a well planned "info dump" done in a way to make it fit into the story. Sometimes the phrasing distracted me a little bit when it came to certain sentences but those were very small moments and didn't happen very often. I see those things more now than I used to and that's okay.
2011 was a spectacular reading year for me: 108 books read in total. Most of them were YA, so my goal for 2012 is to not only read 112 books, but to aim to read at least 35 adult fiction novels. Therefore, I thought I'd start off with a review of Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes.
Prada-wearing magazine editor Lisa Edwards thinks her life is over when her "fabulous" new job turns out to be a deportation to Dublin, launching Colleen magazine. No more jet-setting to the fall collections. No more fabulous parties and photographs in the society pages. The only saving grace is that her friends aren't there to witness her downward spiral. Might her new boss, the disheveled and moody Jack Devine, save her from a fate worse than hell?
Ashling Kennedy, Colleen's assistant editor, is an award-winning worrier, increasingly aware that something fundamental is missing from her life -- apart from a boyfriend and a waistline. And then there's her closest, oldest friend Clodagh "Princess" Kelly, who is apparently living the domestic dream in a suburban castle. So why, lately, has Clodagh had a recurring urge to kiss a frog -- sleep with a frog, if truth be told?
This novel is set in the fashion magazine industry, and I was primarily interested in this novel because I work in the media industry, and have had a lot of contact with magazine teams. However, in New Zealand it seems to be a lot more laid back than in Sushi for Beginners!
The Good: despite being chick-lit it had a fair bit packed into it, and I didn't once feel like the plot was dragging. It is set in Ireland, and the contrasting POVs between Lisa, from London, and Ashling from Dublin, were wonderful. There were a number of love triangles going on, and I'm happy to report that the results weren't as predictable as I'd assumed they would be. At times, it is a bitter-sweet tale, and although I'm a sucker for a happy ending, Keyes manages to keep away from the fairytale style ending often seen in chick-lit.
The Bad: Two of the characters, Lisa and Clodagh, were completely unlikeable, and my attitude towards them didn't improve much, even towards the end of the book. There were numerous in-scene shifts in POV that I found a little unsettling.
The Verdict: A light-hearted rom-com style novel, recommended for a lazy sunday at the beach.
Thursday, January 12, 2012 | | 4 Comments
Happy New Year fellow readers!
2011 was a hectic year for me - you may have noticed that I dropped off the blogging scene for a while. This was all due to my baby girl, Kiera Marie, born 22nd July 2011. Despite having my hands full, I still managed to reach my goal of reading 100 books in 2011 (in fact, I read a few more than 100!).
Some of my favourites:
Best series read: The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Best sequel read: Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare
Best debut author: Rapture, by Phillip W. Simpson
Best sci-fi read: Across the Universe, by Beth Revis
Best fantasy read: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.
Best contemporary read: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Best cover: Supernaturally by Kiersten White
What were some of your favourites for 2011?
Happy reading for 2012!
Writer's Block NZ
Sunday, January 08, 2012 | | 3 Comments